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Englewood ensemble performs 'Tuesday Tradition'

From both sides of the hall, like medieval heralds of old, came an advance party of trumpeters tooting early ceremonial airs. The ranks and volume swelled as they were joined by the remainder of the Solid Brass troupe. Their instruments glistening, they came marching down the main aisle of Englewood's United Methodist Church

Talk about arriving in style. All that was lacking was for Robin Hood, sword in hand, to come swinging down from the rafters. Among the 10-member ensemble were trombones, a tuba, a tambourine, a percussionist, and a French horn player.

Douglas Haislip, trumpeter and managing director, was guide and narrator for much of the program. It began with the "Sonata Pian'e Forte," (soft and loud) by 16th century composer and teacher Giovanni Gabrieli, a musical heir to the Italian Renaissance. From this sojourn in the distant past, Solid Brass swung into a "Suite from the British Isles," amassed from folk music collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams. His "Greensleeves" is widely played. An especially familiar piece from the suite was "Loch Lomond," which preceded the rousing jig-like rhythms of the sea chanteys. The group's ability to convey well-nigh orchestral effects was most successful with "Les Dragons" and "Les Toreadors," irresistible marches from Georges Bizet's opera, "Carmen."

Yet another operatic sequence, but nowhere as well-loved, was Richard Wagner's "Procession to the Cathedral" from "Lohengrin." From percussionist Adrienne Ostrander's amusing account of the plot and the lengthy pace of the selection, it would seem that heroine Elsa and the White Knight were in no tearing hurry to tie the knot. Handel's "Fireworks Music" got the second half's proceedings off to a blazing start. But with "Three Preludes" by George Gershwin -- piano pieces arranged for brass by Doug Haislip -- the audience was, in the vernacular, "really groovin."

Like a painter, Gershwin creates images suggesting the alternately vivid or drab colors of the city, its rushing crowds and taxis. Later, he brings to mind nocturnal wayfarers staggering down deserted streets. The instruments alternately growl or become muted when the rush and clamor subside and the trombones seem to sigh in loneliness. Each of the three preludes -- Allegro, Andante, and another Allegro -- bear "Ritimato" (rhythmically) as part of their names, which translate as directions as to the mode and tempo in which they should be played. They are superb and the ensemble did them justice. The "Turn of the Century Suite" featured Scott Joplin's jaunty "The Entertainer," made memorable as the score for the movie "The Sting," starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Less familiar but almost equally jolly were Henry Filmore's "Lassus Trombone" and a surprising "Rialto Ripples," by George Gershwin, obviously one of his early works.

Probably the most effective segment of the concert was the "Big Band Memories." Here, some of the band's other talents, especially arranger and trumpeter Jeff Holmes, trombonists Hans Muhler and his cohort Carl Della Peruti (also an arranger) shone. Benny Goodman's "Stompin' at the Savoy," Gershwin's "Someone to Watch Over Me," Duke Ellington's bluesy "I'm Just a Lucky So and So," and Glenn Miller's "Tuxedo Junction" showed the ensemble's greatest strength. This season's Tuesday Tradition of the Englewood Performing Arts Series ends April 13 at both 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. performances with the 21st consecutive concert for the series by the Florida West Coast Chamber Orchestra. This time they will offer "Into the Woods" with Assistant Conductor Oscar Bustillo at the helm.

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